Friday, May 25, 2012

GNIE: Complaint against teacher

I learned something interesting today.

First a little background about my GNIE cohort. During the 1st semester, my cohort was split into 2 classes and we were trained separately, with the exception of Pharmacology which was a mostly online course with a 1-hour weekly in-class review. Let's call the other class group A and my class group B. During the 2nd semester, the 2 classes are lumped together into a big group of 35 students for the theory courses.

During the 1st semester, Group A had S as their nursing theory lecturer. Group B had G as our nursing theory lecturer. My group had a lot of fun during our nursing theory classes. Our lecturer G was not above teasing us or being teased by us. As I've mentioned before, my semester 1 classmates are fun-loving and generally collaborative. During semester 1, I heard rumours that the other group (Group A) was rather competitive. In fact, I have personally heard remarks from Group A students whining about how much tougher their theory class and tests were, and how unfair that my group (Group B) had "much easier" test questions. [Note: Group A had tests set by lecturer S, and Group B had tests set by lecturer G.]

During the 1st week of semester 2, our nursing lecturer H was unavailable. We were taught by the Course Co-ordinator L. In week 2, lecturer H returned to teach us. Since then, I was often questioned by students from both groups (but especially those from Group A) asking me which lecturer I preferred, L or H. Since I see no point in comparing L with H given that it is just a difference in teaching style, I skirted the issue by replying tangentially, "I prefer G. Our class had so much fun laughing and learning from her."

In fact, I was to learn later that I wasn't the only one being asked the above. From what I gather, some of the Group A students went round asking everyone from both groups about our lecturer preference. During lunch break with my Filipino friends today, I learned that some Group A students have a strong preference for L over H. According to my Filipino friends' sources, this group of students in Group A -- let's call them AXE students for short -- preferred lecturer L because they think/feel that they will score better marks under L.

We are now in week 3. I heard from my Filipino friends that in order to turn their wish for better marks into reality, AXE students lodged a formal complaint to the Course Co-ordinator/Lecturer L (who doubled up as the replacement lecturer for us in week 1) about lecturer H -- that they did not want lecturer H to be teaching the class. AXE students lodge the complaint without first warning or consulting the other half of the class about their intentions, namely students from my group (Group B). Neither did AXE students attempt to discuss with lecturer H about their preference for a different teaching approach before going behind her back to her manager (i.e. Course Co-ordinator L).

Now comes the interesting part. I wrote about the ugly side of group loyalty (here) and self-interest (here) before. From what I understand, AXE students consist mainly of Filipinos from Group A. The reactions from my Filipino friends surprised me (although I didn't show it). IT remarked that AXE students were very short-sighted and did not consider the long-term impact of ruining our cohort's relationship with lecturer H, e.g. she may make it harder for us to pass. IT's remark got DL and JC worried. AP was also unhappy about the matter. LP was furious that AXE students did not consult our Group B before lodging a complaint, and thus implicating us in their dissatisfaction when in fact we didn't have any preference for lecturer L or H. PT seemed appalled but in his usual politically-neutral manner said nothing. [IJ wasn't with us for lunch.]

LP remarked, "They should have consulted us before making the complaint. We would have objected and [going by the Filipino culture] they should not have done it. Now it seems as if we are part of the complaint."

I asked my friends how they found out about the matter. LP told me about some stuff they overheard in Tagalog and the leak from a neutral person in Group A. So I said, "Oh no! We have to clarify that we have no issues with H teaching us."

LP added with conviction, "Yes. They [the university management] will launch an investigation. Then we must show our support for H."

I concurred, "Yes, let's show our support for H!"
At that point, I was actually quite happy to gain a fresh insight into the Filipino culture. It is NOT a "majority wins"* culture. It expects its members to come to a consensus before acting as a group. That's why despite LP and IJ's unhappiness with lecturer G regarding AP's issue (click here and here), they did not lodge any complaint -- simply because I had voiced my disagreement! [In addition, this indicates how they automatically count me as one of their own.]
Later, I remarked to AP my observation of Group A: They complained amongst the students about their 1st semester lecturer S. Now they are complaining officially about the 2nd semester lecturer H. I wonder if the problem is with the Group A students themselves -- i.e. they are a rather hard to please lot.


[Addendum on 23-Jun-2012]

IMHO, the above complaint has resulted in adverse effects. Click here for more.


*Note: Singaporeans are trained to accept "majority wins". E.g. If majority of the condominium owners  in an estate voted for re-development, the minority has no recourse to stop the re-development project.

Sun, field, space - freedom and peace

Just wanted to share this beautiful spring day in Metro Vancouver.

The field in B.C. above reminded me of 
Van Gogh's "Wheat Field with Cypress" below
[Source: Wikipedia] 

This field is just behind a bus-stop, with mountains in the background and a highway running across the horizon (barely visible behind the tall grass). This beautiful spring day with the sun, the grass field and a vast expanse of space somehow brings me a sense of freedom and peace. I took a deep breath, soaked in the sun, and thought, "If I had the money to retire, I would probably just sit in the sun, enjoy a picnic, and watch the sky and the world go by." Yeah, I am not ambitious.

Simultaneously a familiar tune automatically ran through my head. It's a chirpy theme song "サボテンの花" [Cactus Flower] from an old Japanese TV series "同一屋簷下" [Under one roof].
I think I'm lucky in that while my memory sucks when it comes to remembering names and faces, it seems to work pretty well when it comes to remembering tunes that I like. As a result, I don't really need music from a MP3 player, except when learning a new song. 
同一屋簷下 II 開場片頭 []
Under One Roof, Season Two, Opening sequence

p.s. The Cherry Blossoms season is over in Metro Vancouver. The cherry trees are now covered with fresh green leaves. Which brings to mind another aspect that I like about life in Metro Vancouver -- watching the passing of time with each season.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

GNIE: When the going gets tough...

I wonder if anyone noticed a tinge of frustration in my previous post on GNIE. If so, you're spot on. Last week was only the 2nd week of the 2nd semester. Yet my classmates and I are feeling the stress of the faster-paced and more demanding workload of the 2nd semester.

The thing is, when the going get tough, many of my classmates start to gripe about "why the need for GNIE" and other associated barriers to entry. E.g. the requirement for and stress of undergoing the SEC (Substantially Equivalent Competency) test, the cost of GNIE, the long duration of GNIE, why other earlier batches of internationally trained RNs were allowed to practice without jumping through these hoops, and how unfair it is that we have to do it now, etc, etc.

Since I hang out with the Filipino group in my class more often, I end up hearing more of their complaints. Over one unfortunate lunch last week, several issues crop up.

LP brought up her anger with our last semester's lecturer again, over an issue which I thought was already water under the bridge. When she started fanning old anger in IJ and AP, and tried to influence the other Filipinos in the group, I openly disagreed with her. LP insisted that our lecturer failed as a teacher when she advised AP to withdraw from the course if AP thought that she wasn't going to make it. LP cited the fact that AP passed eventually, proved that our lecturer was wrong. IJ chipped in that AP indeed would not be "here with us" if she had heeded that piece of "ill-advice" to withdraw from the course last semester, and if she had not sought alternative advice from IJ himself and me. They both hinted that they wanted to lodge a complaint and/or petition against the lecturer. I insisted that our lecturer probably did what she did because of her role/duty as a class teacher. And that if AP needed encouragement, that's what friends are for, it's not the teacher's role [given their duty to be objective and impartial]. When AP -- caught between me and LP in the argument -- wanted to drop the discussion, LP continued to push it. Our rather heated argument ended with LP and IJ going for a smoking break.
IMHO, while AP deserved kudos for the effort that she put in to pass the 1st semester's module, she really needed a lot of hand-holding and editing of her English for the online participation and her assignment. I know, because IJ and I were the ones helping her on those aspects.
A while later, LP and IJ returned from their smoking break. I was talking about workplace bullying in Singapore (see below) and added that I have seen students ganging up to bully teachers before. IJ calmed down a little, but I could tell that the issue is "not resolved" from LP's perspective. She was just holding back out of respect for the help that I've given AP to-date. Frankly, I recognize that LP is not mean at heart. She is extremely loyal to those whom she considers her in-group. I am lucky to be part of that in-group. However, I recognize that given my vastly different background, it is inevitable that we will have differences in opinions.

Another issue that cropped up over lunch that day was the unhappiness of my Filipino classmates that they had to do the GNIE program. They cited that how unfair it is that the rules had changed (i.e. until recent years, international nurses did not need to jump through the SEC and GNIE hoops). In addition, CRNBC has now raised the bar on the English standard required. I recognize that perhaps my classmates were complaining because of their own fears about completing/failing the GNIE course and/or the required English proficiency. So I "baited" them with further questions.


WD: So why don't you go to countries where you don't need to do GNIE?

DL: But the English requirements in Australia is higher. We cannot meet it.
[Addendum on 01-Jul-2012: Frankly, it isn't just the English requirement that they may not meet. All nurses wishing to work/live long-term or migrate to Australia need to have their skills assessed by the ANMAC (Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council). The ANMAC skills assessment consists of both an English test (applicable to all internationally trained nurses) and a Competency test. The Competency test is waived for nurses from United Kingdom, Ireland, United States of America, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands (HBO programs). It makes me wonder, what makes my Filipino classmates think that they can pass the ANMAC Competency test (and therefore score points for immigrating to Australia) if they did not even do well enough on the CRNBC SEC, which is why they are here in the GNIE course. Please when you're a guest in a foreign land, put aside your nationalistic pride (about how good your country's nursing training is) and learn to eat the humble pie. Besides, with the potential changes to the immigration rules, we may even be the lucky last few batches having access to the GNIE training to ease us into the nursing in Canada.]
JC chimed in on similar concerns about the required English standard.
[WD thinking to herself, "F*! It is not like the standard is unrealistically high. Blaming the system instead of improving oneself to meet the standards -- how smart is that for adapting to a foreign country?" But WD kept her cool and continued to ask questions instead, hoping that these questions would cause the group to re-think about their "right" to be an RN in Canada.]
WD: So what about countries that don't need such high English requirements? What about Singapore?

IT: But you need nursing work experience to come into Singapore. Work experience with hospitals of a certain size.

WD: Ya, acute hospitals with at least 300 beds or something like that.

IT: Yes, that experience is hard to get in the Philippines.
[IT and others (including Filipino colleagues in Singapore) ever told me about the bribery system for getting a nursing job in the Philippines. Basically, one has to pay bribes because the supply far outstrip the demand. One has to pay a bribe even for a basic, non-prestigous nursing job in a remote area. To land a job in a large, reputable, acute hospital in the Philippines, the bribe needed is significant. That's why the Filipino nurses that Singapore recruits are not the best, but those with enough money to pay the job agents. That's why classmates like IT and AP have zero nursing experience despite graduating from good nursing schools in the Philippines. That said, I found it ironic that these folks do not recognize that the B.C. Canada system gave them an opportunity to enter the nursing world here without any need for bribery. But I didn't want to rub that into their faces, given my confrontation with LP just moments ago. I decided that given the group's current self-interest and subjective mindset, I had to tackle the issue from their "benefits" perspective.]
WD: But some do. And you know what? Those who did end-up doing the same duties as others (in Singapore) but are paid less just because of their passport.

DL: What? What do you mean?

WD: That's the labour policy in Singapore. We have very little barriers to entry for foreign workers. As a result, there is plenty of supply. With little labour protection, workers are discriminated based on the passport they hold.

DL: What? My friends working in Singapore never told me that.
[So DL never heard the "negatives" from her friends in Singapore, who were probably proudly boasting only of their achievements but not of the problems they face. Yup, I've learned from observing the Filipinos here in Metro Vancouver that in a tight-knitted community such as theirs, sometimes face matters -- a lot. By then, IJ returned from his smoking break.]
WD: Yes, it is true. Can you imagine the problems it cause? The workplace bullying? Imagine, no matter how well you perform, how much better you are, you will still be paid less simply because of your passport. Your pay will only be a fraction of your colleagues', for your whole life.

IJ: So Singaporeans (nurses) are the best paid?

WD: No. Some other countries are the best paid. Then the Singaporeans. Then the China Chinese. Then the Filipinos. Then the Indians. Then the South-East Asians, and the rest.

IJ: Based on your passport?

WD: Yes, condemned for the rest of your work-life based on your passport, no matter how good you are or how well you perform. Your whole life!
[I repeated "whole life" for emphasis. DL, JC and the others had the "Oh!" *gasp* *gasp* expression.]
WD: That's why, I would rather do this (GNIE) course and be treated as equals here.

IJ: But you know, earlier batches of international nurses did not need to do the SEC and can work immediately. That's just a few years ago. And they were from the same (Filipino) nursing colleges as us. It is not fair to us -- why (sic) we have to go through the SEC and the GNIE training.

WD: Well, I prefer to jump through the hoops and be treated as equals. There would be no excuse (for discrimination) because we have met the standards and such discrimination will not happen here.

IJ: When I become an RN, I will infiltrate into CRNBC and join the union to change the policies.
[I thought immediately that perhaps precisely because those earlier batches -- who did not go through the SEC and GNIE -- did not perform well enough on-the-job, that CRNBC copied the SEC approach taken by Alberta, and raised the standard of English required. According to our GNIE lecturers, there were some foreign-trained nurses who were sent to undergo GNIE by their Canadian employers.  
By then, I was tired of trying to open the minds of my Filipino classmates. I figured at that point that I might cause a ruckus (and possibly burn some bridges) if I told them point-blank that perhaps their fellow countrymen had spoilt the market for them due to the earlier batches' underperformance on-the-job. It is something that I had observed in Singapore, foreign nursing staff skiving and under-performing once they got the job because they can count on their fellow countrymen to cover their ass and push the blame to a scapegoat (i.e. workplace bullying). If they insist that that B.C. or Canada should change to suit their subjective whims, then so be it. 
IMHO, given that there are internationally trained nurses who met the English requirements and passed the SEC at 1st go, the barriers to entry are there merely to ensure patient safety. We can only blame ourselves for not being up-to-standard and landing up in the GNIE course. Frankly, I and a couple of South Asian classmates are grateful for the step-by-step re-entry into nursing in Canada.]
WD: Hear, hear! Let's join CRNBC and the union. If you're pushing for changes to XYZ [another topic/issue that we both agree on], I will support you. But if you're advocating to remove the barriers to entry, I will oppose it.
[Later IJ talked about quitting his job over a workplace bullying incident that he experienced that week. I shared with him about the possibility of receiving Employment Insurance if he quit as a result of workplace bullying. He asked for my help with his resignation letter and I agreed. Addendum: Subsequently, the bully was removed from the workplace and IJ's previous employer kept persuading him to return their employment.]

I am sad after that lunch last week. Sad that based on our discussion, it is apparent that none of my Filipino classmates is at the calibre of my PRC friend who can take push herself to view things from a different perspective. I had thought more of the potential of my younger classmates, e.g. AP, IJ and IT. Perhaps I am wrong. Or perhaps it just takes time, and experiencing issues from the other side, for them to see things from a different perspective. I don't know. I only know that I am hearing these now partly because the going is getting tough...

Local Stand-up Comedy - an assimilation self-test

As I've mentioned in my previous blog entry, I went to a Canadian stand-up comedy performance recently, a double-bill by Paul Bae and Charles Demers. They have collaborated previously before. See below for an example.

Bucket (Bae & Demers) @ Urban Well 9th Anniversary

I had a good time laughing that night. I caught about 90-95% of Paul's jokes, excluding the bits with specific North American politicians' names because I am not familiar yet with most North American politicians' names. I caught about 85-90% of Charlie's jokes. It took me a couple of seconds before I caught-on about the "track-suit wearing" Brit-copy-cat Canadians. I laughed especially loudly when Charlie joked about the dangers of dating an Asian because one can never tell how old they really are.
If you watch the embedded video below, you'd realize that Charlie has an East Asian wife. When we were collaborating on a theatre project last spring/summer, he declined to guess my age when that topic came up. He told me that he had learned from experience -- his East Asian in-laws look nowhere near their ages -- that it is impossible (from his perspective) to guess an Asian's age.
Comedian Charlie Demers on the ups and downs of giftgiving, on DNTO

At the end of the evening, it occurred to me that one has to understand the local psyche and issues to be able to catch many of the jokes on a local stand-up comedy night. Thus, IMHO, a local stand-up comedy could serve as a self-evaluation tool on how well one has assimilated.


What are the Singaporean equivalent of local stand-up comedies for the Singapore immigrants to do a self-assessment? I believe that there are many. The following are a few suggestions.

Mr Brown and his satirical podcasts

30Aug 2006 TalkingCock in Parliment -Ruby Pan
Google "Youtube Indignation 2006" for the entire series.

Dick lee song

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Tao of Immigration - 移民之道

Returning home after attending a hilarious Canadian stand-up comedy performance, I was about to write about love life and GNIE life. Then I login to check my emails and I received this email from my PRC friend who is a Permanent Resident here. An email which I felt compelled to reply immediately and share here with my readers.

Sent: Friday, May 18, 2012 8:40 PM
Subject: 新“人头税”四万加币!
担保父母两人移民要交八万加币!!这不就是变相“人头税”吗! 除了四万加币,还有其他很多新的花样! 大家赶紧去移民局的网站填意见抗议!开放到5.25号!还有几天时间!
For those who don't read Chinese, here's a translation of the subject line and contents.
Subject: New "Head tax" CAD40,000
To sponsor parents for immigration requires CAD80,000! ! Isn't this like "Head tax"? Other than CAD40,000, there are many other "patterns" (i.e. requirements)! Everybody please quickly go to the CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) website to feedback your objection! It is open until May 25th! There are still a few days left (for public consultation)!
If you know English, fill up the form yourself!!! Don't know English, let your child or friend fill it (on your behalf) !!!! Must fill-up (the feedback form)! Otherwise they won't treat us as humans!!!!!!!!!!!

A little history about the "Head tax" [人头税]: In 1885, the Canadian parliament passed the "Chinese Immigration Act" which specifically sought to discourage Chinese immigration by imposing a tax on each immigrant of Chinese origin -- staring with CAD50 and increasing to CAD500 in 1903, which was a big sum back then. In 2006, the Canadian government made a public apology for this ethnically discriminatory act in Canadian history.

Given the current Canadian Constitution, the proposed fee will be applied across the board to anyone sponsoring their parents for immigration -- regardless whether he/she is "white" or "coloured", Canadians or Permanent Residents. It CANNOT and WILL NOT be targeted at any specific ethnic group. The rationale behind the proposed changes is that there had been a surge in elderly immigrants who are sponsored into Canada by their adult-children (PRs or naturalized Canadians) in recent years. There is concern that the Canadian public resources (elderly income support, universal healthcare, etc) cannot support this influx of elderly.

Thus, I felt that my friend's email was somewhat sensationalist and unfair in its judgement. IMHO, I consider this friend to be a "good quality" immigrant who sought to contribute to the Canadian society economically and artistically. As such, I feel that I can share with her my diametric perspective.


Here's my reply to her email.
Sent: Friday, May 18, 2012 11:36 PM
Subject: Privilege is not a right Re: 新“人头税”四万加币! 
Hi [name], 
Coming from Singapore that is flooded with immigrants -- 2 of 5 Singapore residents are foreigners, and of the remaining 3 there are many who are citizens that are newly minted within the last 10 years -- I have a different perspective. Unless one is a citizen and/or one's parents are citizens, one is just a guest in a host country. The host has every right to roll-up its "Welcome" mat and demand compensation for guest's dwelling. 主家请客拜访是人情。即然是客,就该客气。[Translation: A host inviting guests to visit/dwell is a display of humanity. Since one is a guest, one should behave as a guest.] 
以上的话没非针对你,或中国大陆人,而是以我本身是新移民人对"移民之道”的主见。我有话直说,希望你不介意。[Translation: The above words are not targeted at you, nor at the PRCs, but is my subjective opinion of "The Tao of Immigration" as a new immigrant myself. I am speaking straight from my heart, I hope you don't mind.] 
Cheers, [WD]. 

Here's my friend's reply to my reply.
Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2012 11:01 AM 
you are right. I always feel that I'm just a guest and treated as guest. 

Here's my reply to my friend's reply above.
Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2012 2:47 PM 
IMHO, you and I, we each have a choice. 
If we want to be treated as "more than a guest", we can choose to become naturalized Canadians when we meet the requirements. "Guest privileges" (for permanent residents and visa holders) are revokable because they are not rights. Rights come with responsibilities. In other words, if we choose to step-up to the plate (i.e. become naturalized Canadians) and accept the responsibilities that come with Canadian citizenship, then only will the rights of citizenship follow. 
Otherwise, we can only expect to remain as guests because we have (perhaps implicitly) chosen to be so. Both Singapore and China do not recognize dual citizenship. I know that fact alone holds many PRC Chinese and Singaporeans back from applying for Canadian citizenship because they don't want to loose the right to return to their respective country of origin. The problem then is not with the Canadian policies, but those of our respective country of origin. If that is really the issue holding us back from becoming naturalized Canadians, we have to go back to our own country to solve the problem at its root. How is it fair to expect Canada to accord such guests (whose loyalty obviously lay with their country of origin) citizenship rights without paying the "citizenship loyalty dues" and responsibilities of citizenship? 
Actually, I find most Canadians exceptionally kind, patient and polite to the foreigners amongst their midst in general. To the point that I find it ridiculous that Canadians would apologize when others step on their toes, both literally and figuratively. I don't think there is another first-world country more tolerant of [ordinary] foreigners. Not Singapore. Not Australia. Not New Zealand. Not UK. Not the entire Eurozone countries. Not even USA. Definitely not Japan. And for argument's sake, not even China (see url below). IMHO, I think we made the right choice of a host country.

Here's my friend's reply to my reply.
Sent: Sunday, May 20, 2012 7:37 PM


I agree. By the way, we should get together soon to catch up when you have time. have dinner like last time? 

take care,
[Friend's name]

Like I said, my friend is a "good quality" immigrant. Only those of high caliber are able to calm down and think through issues from multiple perspectives. I have met others who cannot and/or are unwilling to see issues beyond their subjective perspectives and/or self-interests. The question is: how did Canada attract more of the former and Singapore end up with more of the latter type of immigrants?


[Addendum on 30-Aug-2012]

I am sorry to inform my readers that perhaps my friend is not as "good quality" as I had expected. Since her request to catch up for dinner back in May, we have yet to meet. I have made at least 3 attempts to arrange for dinner with her but each time she would have "something" on and made no effort to suggest alternative. I am not in need of another friend, much less an ethnocentric one, so I am going to drop her friendship unless she makes a real attempt to meet up with me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

GNIE: Waiting for 1st bus at 4:45am

It's just 1st day of the 2nd week of semester 2, and I already feel like I'm trailing behind time. We have 3 days of classes and 2 days of clinical each week. However, students are required/expected to spent hours daily for revision and/or preparatory work at home.

Waiting for 1st bus at 4:45am.
I woke up at 4am in order to reach the bus-stop by 4:45am.

The above photo was taken at on Monday 14th-May at 4:45am. If you look closely, you can see the bus-stop pole slightly in the foreground and to the right of the electrical pole (on the left edge of the photo). What am I doing up so early in the morning? I was waiting for the 1st bus to travel to my group's car-pool pick-up point, followed by a long drive up to the hospital where I had been assigned for my twice weekly clinical attachment. 2.5 hours each way, a total of 5 hours spent travelling for each shift. Twice weekly, over 8 weeks for semester 2. Similarly, last semester I had to catch the 1st bus (in another direction) to another hospital for clinical too.

Meanwhile I may have to reduce my internet surfing and blogging time to focus more on studies. I don't know if I'd be successful at that, as "discipline in studies" is not my strong suit. Keeping my fingers crossed that I would pull through, just like I've done to-date in life.


The migration journey of uprooting oneself, traveling across oceans, integrating and re-establishing oneself in a new country is no easy feat. Let not those Singaporeans who think "quitting is the easy/loser option" fool you otherwise. As it is, I have personally met a few who gave up along the journey, and others who are still hanging on after a couple of "false-starts".

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Age 40's, looks 20's

I was about to write something about my dates in Canada. Then I thought that I had to write a little preface to explain my situation. So this is the preface.

I am in my 40's. However, if you don't know me and have not heard of my stories, you probably would not have guessed my chronological age when you meet me in person. Amongst the people I have met in Canada, they* (see below) have guessed my age from mid-20's to early-30's, often starting with the 20's. Usually by the time I suggest that they guess a bigger number than early-30's, their eyes would open wide and their jaws would hang slack, saying, "You're joking!?!"

I put my blessing down to good genes, never smoked (except as in the slang for "sprouting bullshit" in exams, haha), am an occasional social drinker (but not to the drunk stage), take actions to remove myself from extreme stress, having a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (since my late 20's), and avoiding weight swings (I can still fit into clothes tailor-made in my mid-20's). Some of the esoteric stuff I've done include practising Yoga Headstand occasionally, meditation, and psychic healing (including channeling of energy within oneself). I think the esoteric stuff helps too.

Yoga headstand at a Singapore Community Centre
Yup, that's me, albeit 10 years ago!

IMHO, I am not ugly, nor am I a model-style beauty. I think have my own beauty, similar to many other women that I have observed. Sometimes I receive double-takes and/or compliments from strangers passing-by while in Metro Vancouver.
The 1st time a boy hit on me was when I was 12 and sitting dazed in my primary school classroom. [Note: I don't know why but in my teens, there have been several occasions where my soul seem to leave my body, and I become totally oblivious to my surroundings, while remaining physically in the same position.] After a while, I suddenly snapped out of my dazed state. I had no idea what happened, other than finding my male classmate (also 12) kneeling in front of me, his face only a few centimetres from mine, staring at my face strangely. It was only from the resultant teasing that I gathered that my male classmate saw me "daydreaming", knelt down in front of me and started stroking my cheek. Honestly, I wasn't into BGR then, so I wasn't the least bit bothered by the matter, other than I did not like how one jealous female classmate kept raising the incident repeatedly.
Oops, I've side-tracked. *Now back to the people guessing my age in Canada. These are from various age groups, from teens to elderly retirees, both male and female, from various ethnicity - Europeans, Latinos, Middle Easterners, South Asians, East Asians, South-East Asians, Africans, Americans and Canadians (white, yellow, brown, and black). Not one have guessed my age correctly or anywhere close to it on their 1st 3 attempts.

As a side effect, I have been hit on by men from their 20's to 60's while here in Canada. And I have dated men from both ends of that age range.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Singapore: Love it, or Leave it

I have been in Metro Vancouver for over 1 1/2 years now, having left Singapore in October 2010. Despite the time elapsed, I noticed that I am still spending a lot of my free time going online, reading about Singapore and Singapore-related blogs. In addition, I found myself still puzzled by the extraordinary visceral reactions by some acquaintances who regard people who emigrate as almost equivalent to "traitors". [Click here and here for examples.]

With the Vancouver Documentary Film Festival (DOXA) happening, I chanced upon the film "Italy: Love It, or Leave It". The film's premise of exploring why Italians choose to stay or leave their country intrigued me. I thought that the documentary may help me better understand such similar choices by my fellow Singaporeans to stay/leave the little red dot. [Aside: I highly recommend the film if you have a chance to catch it.]

Italy: Love it, or Leave it

At the end of the movie, my mind was buzzing. Instead of walking to the nearest train station and heading home, I decided to stroll around downtown Vancouver to let my thoughts settle.
[Aside: Walking around to allow my thoughts to settle down is a habit that I picked up from my late paternal grandfather. When we were young, he would bring my younger brother and I (his 2 favourite grandchildren) for long walks around Chinatown after dinner.]

I walked passed this building in Vancouver downtown. 

"Red Burrito" reflected on the glass panel.
Yup, that's me taking the photo.

I walked for about 2 hours, from the vicinity of Yaletown-Roundhouse station to Waterfront station, looping around the Gastown tourist area (the 2nd time I've been there). Along the way, I passed by the above building in Vancouver downtown and a random thought came to my mind... 

Burritos! Originally a Mexican food, now popular in B.C. My guess is that burritos came to Canada, together with its Mexican and Latin American immigrants. Then I thought about how the typical Singaporeans love our local food. Singapore-style laksa, Nonya kueh, stir-fry satay bee-hoon, pepper/chilli crab with Chinese buns [馒头],  etc. None of which would have been possible if not for the intermingling of cultures and cuisines of our (mostly immigrant) forefathers. In fact, I wondered if it was any coincidence that 17 of the top 50 restaurants in Canada (i.e. almost 2 out of 5) are in B.C. which has a high percentage of immigrant population.

Towards the end of my walk, a bulb lighted in my head. [Note: I want to avoid spoiling the film for you, so I shall not explain about the film's inspiration for my thoughts.] Yes, there are Singaporeans who choose to stay because it is their birthplace, and they believe in fighting to improve Singapore. Yes, there are Singaporeans who leave for various reasons. [In my case, I don't think that the required changes will be implemented and successfully reap rewards within my lifetime.] Of course, there are also Singaporeans who choose to stay, but complain and complain -- the NATO (no action, talk only) whiners.

IMHO, it may be a good thing that those who are unhappy in Singapore, quit Singapore, and those who believe in a their vision of a better Singapore, stay-on to rebuild it. In this way, Singapore loses its unhappy folks and the receiving host countries gain residents who are happy to have another chance to build a fulfilling life. On both sides, each country's net happiness is increased. What a win-win!

Finally, considering the "Law of Attraction", I have a fresh insight to why some acquaintances have such visceral reactions to my critical comments about Singapore. Afterall, if my criticisms add oil to the flames of the "NATO whiners", it will negate the positivism of folks who are fighting to improve Singapore.

p.s. If any Singapore film maker gets round to making a Singapore equivalent (e.g. "Singapore: Love it, or Leave it") of the Italian documentary, I would sure love to catch the film.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Dating 100 toads

Since I have lots of time over my vacation, I had time to reflect on my love life. Over the course of my life, my love life is more a series of "not happening" and mis-steps than actual events. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I counted the number of guys I've dated (i.e. specifically hanging out with a guy or a double-date, excludes group dating events such as those by SDU). I cannot be quite sure, but I think the number to-date is [approximately] only 25!!! Looking at my past relationships, it occurred to me that I had spent more of my love life pining over long-distance romances (I've had 2, eerrm, not sure if the 3rd one counts), than actually being together with the one I love. Oops!

Time for a new strategy. I think I have to get out and date more -- like the figurative salesman who makes 100 cold calls to get 3 potential sales, and 1 final closed deal. So, 75 more toads, here I go. Hopefully I'd meet my "frog prince" along the way, haha!

In the meantime, I think the song below captures my sentiments precisely. As the lyrics explains,  love is not so simple [沒那麼簡單], everyone has his/her own temperament [每个人有他的脾气], and after awhile one gets used to being on one's own -- don't have to worry about anyone and don't have to adjust to another person's life.

黃小虎 - 沒那麼簡單
[Singer Huang Xiaohu - "Not so simple"]

p.s. I must state that approximately 90% of the approximately 25 guys that I've dated in the past are nice fellas. It's just that not every nice person will be a good match in coupledom, no matter how hard both sides try.

GNIE: Pre-course expenses

There are pre-requisites to fulfil before admission into the GNIE course. Meeting these pre-requisites would add up to one's expenses, so here is how I met the pre-requisites.
  1. $250 Commitment fee, non-refundable. The credit from this fee will be debited against your 1st semester's fee, so it isn't money going to waste. The commitment fee can be paid via cash, bank debit, or credit card. I used my credit card for payment since I can gain reward points on my credit card.

  2. CPR - Level C certificate valid throughout the duration of the GNIE program. There are many different providers of CPR training in B.C. I suggest taking the CPR HCP (for Health Care Provider) from the St John's Ambulance. The reason being that it has the longest validity, 3 years. It costed $168 when I attended the training in June 2011. I signed up for the training online and paid via credit card.

  3. A Criminal Records Check (CRC), including Vulnerable Persons Check from the Canadian authorities. That is, a Criminal Records Review issued by the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General. This was easily done -- I printed the online form, filled-in the template form, submitted the form and paid $20 (using my credit card) at Kwantlen's Admissions counter.

  4. For students with Canadian Permanent Residency, a Criminal Records Check (CRC), including Vulnerable Persons Check from the applicant's home country. I enclosed a copy of my Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC) from the Singapore Police Force that I submitted to the Canadian High Commission for my PR application back in 2009. In addition, I signed a CRC Student Declaration Form and provided evidence that I could not obtain a more recent CRC from the Singapore Police Force. Fortunately, the school accepted my Student Declaration and my 2009 CNCC.

  5. Immunizations consistent with the requirements of clinical agencies, and a Canadian TB skin test or Chest X-ray dated within 2 years of registering for the GNIE program. Immunizations required: Diptheria/Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Chicken Pox, Influenza (seasonal), Influenza (H1N1), Hepatitis Serology, Hepatitis B Vaccine. 

The immunization requirement was the most difficult for me because I do not have any record of immunizations done as a child. According to the Singapore health authority I contacted, immunization records of children born before 1974 were destroyed. The Singapore doctor-in-charge kindly went through past public health policies and gave a list of immunizations that I was likely to have received.

I tried to make an appointment with a B.C. public health nurse, but the process was long and cumbersome, and thus unable to meet the GNIE registration deadline. Therefore, I went to a walk-in clinic since I do not have a Canadian family doctor. The nice doctor checked through the Immunization Form and explained that if I did my immunization to meet school pre-requisites, I would have to pay for each immunization given, which could cost hundreds. He then reviewed my medical history and explained to me that he could justify for my immunization to be covered under the BC Care Plan. [Thank goodness for the nice doctor!]

Since I have had chicken pox in my late teens, I didn't need the Chicken Pox immunization. Although I've had my H1N1 Influenza immunization done while working in a Singapore hospital in 2009, the hospital did not give me a record of the immunization done, so I needed to re-do it again. The doctor combined the injections into 3 -- 1st for Diphtheria/Tetanus and Polio (DPT), 2nd for Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), 3rd for both seasonal and H1N1 Influenza.

I have a record of the Hepatitis B vaccinations done in 1997, and thus the doctor wrote an order to send me for Hepatitis Serology tests at a separate medical lab. As for the TB screening, the nice doctor explained that since I've had BCG immunization done as a child/teen, the Mantoux Skin Test is likely to return a false positive. Thus he wrote out an order to send me for a Chest X-Ray to be done at a separate radiology clinic instead of the 2-step Mantoux-then-CXR process. Similar to the immunizations, the Hepatitis-Serology and CXR could have cost $90/each if they were done for schooling pre-requisites. As it turned out, the staff at both the radiology clinic and the blood test laboratory did not ask me any question regarding the indications (need) for the tests.

A week later, I had a follow-up review and the doctor completed my Immunization Form for the GNIE course. The doctor charged me $30 for the consultation. I paid it happily (via credit card) since he had helped me met the immunization requirements with minimal expenses.